Alliance awards $10,000 in seed money 

The Drive, a business pitch competition presented by The Shared Drive, awarded a total of $10,000 in seed money to three local entrepreneurs during a July 11, 2019, event at Inventrek Tech Park. The winning business plans included software development, solar power storage and door locking systems for schools.
An initiative of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, the contest was open to those with a startup idea or expansion of an existing business located within Howard County. Expansion could include increasing square footage, adding a product line, and increasing geographical reach.

In April, 21 local entrepreneurs submitted applications for the contest. After hours of deliberation and interviews, Alliance staff narrowed the field to seven finalists.

In the following months, the finalists met with key Alliance staff and the Hoosier Heartland Indiana Small Business Development Center to create or refine their business plans.

In a “Shark Tank”-style event open to the public, the finalists presented business plans to a panel of three judges whose parameters included feasibility, presentation, positive community impact, and potential job creation. Serving as judges were Jim Alender, former president and CEO of Salin Bank & Trust; Peggy Cenova, regional director of the East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center; and Alan Krabbenhoft, Dean of the School of Business at Indiana University Kokomo.

The Drive’s other presenting finalists were David Lowe of Automotive Sales Coach, Brian Mula of GR Products LLC, Dominique Williams of HireWho, and Krystyne Wilson of Sweet Peas Play Café.

Several of the entrepreneurs’ business plans call for the creation of skilled jobs and high-tech training. Workforce development and job creation from large and small employers is a key component of the Alliance’s mission.

The event was sponsored by Duke Energy, Community First Bank of Indiana, Benchmark Mechanical, NIPSO, Indiana University Kokomo, City of Kokomo and Howard County government.

The Drive winners

• Tim Branyan of RepuStream took home the largest chunk of the seed money, earning $6,000 for his online reputation management software.

• Chris Rohaly of Green Alternatives Inc. received $3,000 for his plan to pursue solar energy saving systems.

• Brian Mikesell of Strong Arm Locking Systems received $1,000 for his patented lock for classrooms.